Friday, August 5, 2011

Odds & Ends

Perks of living in a developing country: I walked into a pharmacy the other day and asked for a cream, since I’m having a bit of an allergic reaction to – well, lord only knows what to out here, but I’m blaming the Malarone. And the guy goes into the back and comes back with a tube containing a mixture of corticosteroids and antibiotics, and a big fat warning saying ‘By Prescription Only’, and proceeds to sell it to me for three bucks. Closest thing he’s seen to a prescription is a red splotch on my arm, but apparently that’s good enough. Good for society maybe not, but awesome for me. And damned if the stuff doesn’t work, too.

Things I’ve learned living here #1: Goats like to climb. I’ve seen a good lot of goats since coming to Papua, and a surprising number of them have been standing on benches and railings and such. And not just leaning up on them – all four feet on the bench, looking down on the world around them. Eye-level goats are a little disconcerting.

Things we take for granted (a gripe): The internet here is slow. Sometimes it’s just a little slow, so facebook takes a minute to load. Sometimes it’s like molasses, and I have to press the reload button five times before gmail finally stops timing out on me. The internet, however, is not designed for slow connections. For example: Yale sends me an email saying I have a TA appointment! Yay! All I have to do is click through thee five different screens to get to the login page and then hit okay once or twice more to see what class I’ll be working with next semester. And please do so ASAP to accept the appointment. Do you know how long it takes me to do all that? 30 seconds in the States, probably, but much langer than that out here. The library account login page just plain refuses to load, which has been a pain since I’ve had some books come due, and you can’t renew them by ESP. (Thanks again Nicole for returning the one and mom for logging in for me to renew the other!) And the New York Times has so many applets and pictures and videos and whatever that it takes me five minutes to check the news, assuming it load right at all, which it doesn’t always. A text-only version for internet-deprived expats like me would be much appreciated. (And wouldn’t earn them any ad revenue at all, so fat chance.) I should probably just switch over to the Singapore Straits Times, which I’m sure is more relevant to me here anyway, but old habits die hard. Example of a useful website out here: Wikipedia. Low tech, fast, awesome. Blogger would be fine except that google still thinks I’m in China. It took me several tries to figure out which link was to log in. Hopefully I won’t need to do anything more complicated.

Things I’ve learned #2: Small plastic grocery bags make good sponges to wash the dishes with. Very effective at getting a lather out of the dish soap. Not that I’m switching from real sponges any time soon. But you know, just in case.

Why do giant beetles keep dying in front of my building? Wasp stings to the head? Chemicals? And why do they always die lying on their backs? Either way, bad news for the beetles, good news for the Peabody Museum entymology collection. Just don’t tell Customs.

The dog situation is interesting here. In Java there were a lot of stray cats around but very few dogs. Here it’s just the opposite. The number of dogs in any particular area seems to vary in inverse proportion to the number of Muslims, which actually makes sense, given. But the dogs here aren’t exactly strays, even if they’re not pets either. We’ve got four who live around the house, two males and two females. Nobody spays or neuters, so there were puppies living in the kitchen out back when I first arrived. The dogs don’t come in the house, except when the back door is open and nobody’s looking and they want to nose around in the trash. And they don’t get fed. But they do hang around in the kitchen and eat whatever falls on the ground (again, the shed out back where the cooking’s done, not the room in the house with the water cooler and sink). And somebody took the puppies, so they must be wanted. But they shy away when I hold out my hand, so they definitely don’t get petted. Mostly shooed away, from what I’ve seen. Definitely not trained. Any Papuans who saw how we treat our dogs in the US would probably think we’re crazy. Maybe we are.

And my Indonesian has gone in the last few weeks from somewhat Javanese-inflected Standard Indonesian to a regional mashup of Javanese terms from last summer, Papuan Malay from talking to people here, and a smattering of Manadonese from learning to cook with my landlady. Can’t wait to bring that to LanguageTable in the fall. And yes, I’m coming home with new recipes, and yes, I’ll be cooking them, and yes, you can try them.

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